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Samsung, TSMC in US patent infringement investigation

Complaint filed by Daedalus Prime – wasn't he a Transformer?

Samsung and TSMC are facing an investigation by the US International Trade Commission (USITC) over allegations of patent infringement involving chips and mobile devices containing those chips.

The USITC said that it will begin an investigation based on a complaint filed by Daedalus Prime LLC of Bronxville, New York, in September. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the import into the US of semiconductor devices, and mobile devices containing those chips, which allegedly infringe patents claimed by the company.

According to the USITC's notice of investigation [PDF], the patent infringement claims cover chips manufactured by Samsung using its 14nm and smaller process nodes and by TSMC using its 16nm and smaller process nodes, and the probe will also cover mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches that include the chips in question.

The complainant, Daedalus Prime, is seeking to have the USITC issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders, essentially blocking the import and sale in the US of any infringing products.

Qualcomm is understood to have been named in a separate patent infringement filed by the same company.

According to media reports, Daedalus Prime is a non-practicing entity (NPE), which refers to a person or organization that holds a patent for a product or process, but has no intention of developing it. In other words, it makes money by licensing the patents to others. It is understood that the patents cover technology developed by Intel, which Daedalus Prime acquired the rights to earlier this year.

One of the patents in question, US Patent 9,831,306, is for a “Self-aligned Gate Edge and Local Interconnect and Method to Fabricate Same”, and appears to apply to a method for creating the gate of a transistor using FinFET technology.

It would appear that this investigation is just one of a number that have been started by the USTIC on the basis of complaints filed by Daedalus Prime, which would seem to suggest that the company is trying to force others into paying up for the patents it has acquired from Intel, or face having their products hit with an import ban by the US government.

However, the USITC states in its announcement that it has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. It will schedule and hold a hearing to examine the evidence, and make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337 in due course.

Meanwhile, Intel announced several months ago that it was making available a further tranche of its patents - nearly 5,000 of them - via an agreement with IPValue Management Group. These were described as older patents that have not yet expired but no longer represent cutting-edge technology, but Intel was seeking a way of maximizing its revenue by having others handle the licensing. ®

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